In a recent update that may disappoint many, BT TV has announced that from Monday, November 6, customers using its service will no longer be able to fast-forward through advertising breaks on ITV’s channels while in Internet Mode – even when those programmes are recorded.
This change aligns with the functionality of ITV’s streaming app, ITVX, but it undeniably downgrades the user experience for BT TV customers who have been accustomed to skipping adverts effortlessly on their recordings.
The BT TV boxes in question, specifically the BT TV 4K Pro Box and the Mini Box, offer an Internet Mode feature, allowing users to stream Freeview channels directly from the internet, an option that circumvents the need for a traditional aerial.
This feature was introduced in 2022 as a modern solution for those with bad aerial reception or those who simply preferred a streamlined, broadband-based solution for their television viewing.
Freeview channels streaming via broadband is becoming a staple feature of pay-TV subscriptions – Sky is offering the same thing with its Sky Stream box (and Sky Glass TV), and Virgin Media offers Freeview-via-broadband on its Stream box as well.
However, BT TV’s boxes have a unique feature that’s missing from all the other streaming boxes – recording.
While Sky Glass / Stream can record some content to the cloud, and stream other content on-demand – BT TV’s boxes can record Freeview channels directly to the box’s hard drive – even when they’re streamed via broadband.
And of course, that also means viewers can then fast forward the adverts – something they cannot do on Virgin Media or Sky (though Sky offers a paid ad-skipping add-on).
But now – things are changing for BT’s customers on ITV.
No More Ad Skipping On ITV
Starting November 6, how BT TV customers (who may soon become EE TV customers) use the service to watch ITV channels is changing.
According to the information provided by BT, the update is aimed at “preventing advertising breaks being skipped using pause and fast forward options when watching live streaming or recordings.”
You’ll still be able to pause, fast forward and rewind ITV shows, but you won’t be able to fast forward through the adverts.
The main point of this change is, of course, to stop viewers from skipping past adverts when they’re watching live shows or recorded programmes using the Internet Mode on BT TV.
This change makes BT TV’s Internet Mode work more like ITV’s own streaming app, ITVX.
ITVX is ITV’s streaming app that replaced ITV Hub, and lets you watch their shows via broadband (both on-demand and live).
In the standard version of ITVX, which is free, you can’t fast-forward through adverts. If you don’t want to see the ads, you have to pay £5.99/month for ITVX Premium, the subscription version of the app (which also adds premium content from BritBox and Studio Canal).
Now, BT TV is making its Internet Mode work in a similar way, at least when you’re watching ITV channels.
This is quite a big change because before, BT TV customers could easily skip past adverts on recorded programmes, something many people like to do.
Now, it will work like ITVX where you have to watch the adverts unless you pay for the ad-free version.
It’s unclear at the moment whether those who are subscribed to ITVX Premium will continue to see adverts on the BT TV recordings – it’s possible they may have to use the ITVX App in order to skip the adverts.
In any case, this change, possibly brought on by ITV, could also be a way to encourage more people to subscribe to ITVX Premium if they want to avoid watching adverts.
It’s a way for ITV to make more money from subscriptions, or from the adverts which help sustain the free content.
However, this new rule may not sit well with some viewers who liked the way things were before.
Those who continue to watch ITV via an aerial on BT TV, will be able to continue recording and fast-forwarding adverts as before – but some people can’t use an aerial, as reception in their area is bad – which was the whole point of the Internet Mode.
Also, for now, other Freeview channels on BT TV’s Internet Mode will continue to function as before – but others may follow ITV’s lead in the future.
No Ad-Skipping On Freeview: A Hint Of Things To Come?
With the forthcoming launch of Freely in 2024, a transition towards more internet-based TV is on the horizon.
Freely, touted as the streaming successor to Freeview and Freesat, aims to deliver live TV over broadband, merging traditional and modern viewing experiences
The new restriction on ad-skipping on BT TV and ITV might hint at how advertising could be handled on Freely.
If direct recording isn’t featured, and ad-skipping is disabled, viewers might have to adapt to a more structured, less flexible viewing experience.
As broadcasters explore monetisation avenues, the control over ad-skipping seems to be tightening.
The convenience of ad-skipping and recording has always been a valued feature for many viewers (though, again, let’s not forget adverts are how many of these channels can sustain themselves).
If Freely adopts a similar approach to BT TV and ITV, the essence of traditional TV viewing could further dilute, making the streaming service less attractive to those who prefer more hands-on control over their viewing experience
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